Thousands & Thousands of Wilson’s Phalaropes over the Great Salt Lake

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Thousands of Wilson's Phalaropes over the Great Salt LakeThousands of Wilson’s Phalaropes over the Great Salt Lake – Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

It may only be one month into summer but for the shorebirds of North America fall migration has already begun. Some shorebirds reach their breeding ground early, breed, nest, rear their young and head to their wintering grounds before songbirds do.

The Great Salt Lake is in the Great Basin hub of the Pacific flyway and it isn’t unusual to see hundreds of thousands of shorebirds migrating through the area in both spring and fall and those are amazing to see, especially from the causeway to Antelope Island State Park. After several dry years we had a wet spring here with plenty of runoff from the mountains and the level of the lake is higher than it has been for some time and there is water close enough to the shoreline near the causeway to bring great views of the shorebirds fueling up for their long migrations.

I know how blessed I am to be able to see and photograph the spellbinding spectacle of thousands and thousands of Wilson’s Phalaropes lift off and take flight en masse and to see their murmurations over the Great Salt Lake. To watch them in person as the phalaropes fly over the water in undulating waves is indeed incredible to see. At times I have to take my eye away from the viewfinder so I can take the whole view in.

The phalaropes in my photo above were probably close to a mile away when I photographed them over the calm waters of the lake with the Promontory Mountains in the background. I wish I could have heard their wings but they were too far away.

It makes me realize just how hard we need to fight to prevent the Great Salt Lake from drying up because the birds need the resources the lake provides for them on their journeys.

Life is good.


I had two other photos I wanted to post today of a spider I photographed yesterday and a Mule Deer that was covered in spiderwebs plus a spider on her nose but I have been having some server issues that started to be a big problem while I was up in Idaho and Montana and until I can get those issues resolved I am limiting myself to one photo per post because posting more than one is causing a huge strain on the resources of my server. Readers may have noticed slow loading times and for that I apologize.


  1. Patty Chadwick July 19, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Having problems with my evil iPad since granddaughter “up dated” it …slow, sluggish, new, unfamiliar
    fornats, old favorites missing, awkward keyboard, A zillion imojis that I don’t want, and I have no clue how to fix…. Bird shots are incredible…look like hills or mountains, not bird clouds…

  2. Elephants Child July 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Ooooooh. How I would love to see/hear a murrmurration. How I love knowing they exist. How I long for them to CONTINUE to happen.

  3. April Olson July 19, 2017 at 10:25 am

    I will have to go back this week. I have been on the causeway when a murmuration flew over the causeway where we were parked, I will never forget the sound and feeling as the birds flew over us. They were so close I was worried they might hit the car. It was a living wave that washed just above the surface of the water and ground, up over the road, (and us) then flew on over the lake to the north.

    • Laura Culley July 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      Oh what a blessing that must have been April!! Delighted for you!

  4. Cindy July 19, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Yesterday, while driving South along Hwy 89, my daughter and I were commenting on the condition of the lake. I remember years ago how that drive offered some stunning views and now it’s just brown flatland. With the population quickly growing in Utah and water resources always at the whim of Mother Nature, what are the chances the birds will still bathe and fly over these waters in years to come.

    • Mia McPherson July 19, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Cindy, if we all don’t reduce our water consumption along the Wasatch front the lake and the birds that use it could suffer. I moved here from Florida while Florida was experiencing a drought and people couldn’t water their lawns, wash their cars at home or waste water and it is normally subtropical there. So when I came to a desert state and saw all the water being wasted it shocked me. It still shocks me. If they put any more dams on the Bear River, and there are plans for some, more water will be diverted and less water will reach the lake. That won’t be good for the birds or the people that will be breathing in unknown toxins in the air from when the wind blows over the exposed lake bed.

      • Cindy July 19, 2017 at 10:24 am

        I am in total agreement Mia but there remains a bit of a cynic in me after living in Utah for most of my life. We are all responsible for water consumption but it seems the government will put the citizens above wildlife almost any day. On the news the other day they talked of the expanding population in the Provo area, etc. and how more infrastructure is needed to accommodate those that move to Utah and yet approximately 70% of the population growth is in state. Having lived in Draper for 24 years and now in Davis County, no one wants to admit their large family could in any way contribute to depleting water sources etc. Yes, it is shocking to see water wasted in the desert but Utahans are rather fond of their gardens, green lawns and large golf courses. Maybe, just maybe Utah is waking up and we can only hope this is so.

  5. Laura Culley July 19, 2017 at 7:35 am

    There are so many utterly spectacular sights and sounds in Nature! What a blessing for you to have seen that. I marvel at murmurations and wonder at the eternal how-do-they-do-that question. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Mia McPherson July 19, 2017 at 9:54 am

      My pleasure Laura and thank you.

  6. Liz Cormack July 19, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Wow….I can only imagine what it would be like watching this.

    • Mia McPherson July 19, 2017 at 9:54 am

      It is amazing to see Liz.

  7. LSClemens July 19, 2017 at 6:17 am

    Spectacular natural phenomenon that you’ve shared with us! Save the Great Salt Lake!

    • Mia McPherson July 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Thanks LSClemens, we do need to save the lake.

  8. Glen Fox July 19, 2017 at 4:55 am

    You are truly blest to live where you do, and also blessed with the wisdom to fully appreciate the world around you. We are blessed because you share your experiences with us in the form of amazing photographs and insight. Thank you!

    • Mia McPherson July 19, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Glen, I am so very blessed. Nature is such a gift.

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